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Fridays were always quiet at Cellsworth High School. Some high schools are probably rowdy on Fridays, the anticipation of the weekend more than the students can bear. At Cellsworth High School, every student anticipates something no student should have to bear.
Mindy was as quiet as anyone when Friday came around. Mindy’s teacher greeted her students with a grim smile as they marched like a funeral procession into the classroom. Everyone seemed to be quietly paying attention to the lesson, but everyone was staring at the clock instead, counting the seconds until-
“Nine O’ Clock!” Some boy shouted, breaking the gut-wrenching silence. The teacher glared at him, but didn’t say anything. She had been so absorbed in giving the lesson no one was listening to, she had lost track of time. She stopped her lesson to look at each student, seeing if one of them had the ice in their eyes.
The teacher wrote an assignment on the board and sat at her desk. No one would do the assignment, and the teacher didn’t expect them to. The students just needed an excuse to talk amongst themselves, trying to figure out who the Selected student was.
The boy who had announced the time just seconds before wondered out loud who it was. And older, experienced girl shortly stated that no one would admit it was them, so no one should bother asking. Yet every other student mumbled to each other, everyone but Mindy.
Only Mindy’s closest friends knew it was her without having to ask. They saw the ice in her eyes, they recognized it from the Selected students of weeks before. They didn’t talk about it, they just pat her on the back and whispered words of hope in her ear. Other acquaintances, taking a bit longer to figure it out, silently spread the word. Over the next hour of school, the name “Mindy” floated through the halls. No one needed any explanation, they simply accepted the news with a solemn nod and continued on their way, passing along the name to whoever hadn’t been told yet. Hallway time was extended on Fridays, giving each student time to find Mindy and show some respect, or at least some recognition. Despite the kind things said to her, Mindy remained a hollow shell, eyes cold and bare. No matter what anyone said, she remained still, staring straight ahead.
She couldn’t tear her eyes away from the cloaked figure only she could see.
The figure had stretched itself from the shadows just as it was nine o’ clock. Her eyes were cold from the horrible sight they beheld. The hairs on the back of her neck were standing on end, for even though the figure was always lurking a few yards away, she could still feel its cold breath as if it were right behind her. She was tempted to point out the figure as it conspicuously but soundlessly shuffled down the hallway, but she knew from past experience that they wouldn’t be able to see it, no matter what she did.
Its been a while since the figure started showing up, so a large number of people had been through this before. Most people would act like her, in a state of shock, but without loosing their composure. Others had gone mad, being able to see this horrible thing no one else could see. No one knew what happened to those crazy ones who tried to fight the Selection. Only once, as far as Mindy knew, was a Selected student secretive about it. No one knew she had been Selected until the figure made its move. Most students agree that she was in denial, which is how she showed no sign that she could see the dreaded figure.
Lunchtime that Friday, like all Fridays, literally felt like a funeral. The few people who still didn’t know who it was discourteously shouted to their friend, desperate to know who was Selected, and their curiosity was immediately silenced with respectful whispers of “Mindy”.
Mindy’s closest friends crowded her, insisted they stay with her until it was over, but Mindy wanted to face it alone. Lunch time, like hallway time, was extended on Fridays. Feeling like a leper or someone left for dead Mindy retreated to a small, empty table in a secluded corner of the lunchroom. She knew that no one, once Selected, made it past lunch. In fact, she was lucky to have lasted this long.
The figure seemed closer now. Even though no one else could see it, they all seemed to know it was closing in. When Mindy blinked, her last glimpse of reality was stolen. Now she was a very distorted lunch room: Every student was shrunk down to a small dot on the edge of her vision, the lunch tables and benches were merely blurs, almost nonexistent, and the figure, instead of fading away to be ignored, grew until it filled her vision. Wordlessly, the figure turned the black pits of nothingness that were its eyes from Mindy to its cloak. Mindy suffered mutely as the figure lifted its cloak.
Inside, where its chest should be, was an impossibly deep, gaping cavity, inside which were black specks of fire, trapped behind the figure’s rotting gray ribs. It had a dark purple stone instead of a heart, and two shrunken lungs on the verge of decomposition. The puny tongues of fire were screaming in both desperately high and mournfully low voices, helpless against the figure’s twisted soul.
Mindy tried to free herself from the vision, to get back to reality, but to no avail. She felt strangely fatigued, and found herself just wanting to rest. The figure, evil as it was, held out its hand, like a kind, selfless gesture. Its hand was purple with sores, and the skin was almost falling off the bone. Even after the torment this creature put her through, Mindy, in her weakened state, saw the hand as a kind, loving gesture. She grabbed the hand, the hand she believed would pull her out of this living nightmare. Instead of bringing the comfort she truly believed the hand would bring, the hand cruelly squeezed her hand, digging its rock-hard nails into her pasty white skin. The figure had an inhuman grip, Mindy had no chance of escape. The figure’s other hand rose from under its cloak-
-The other students in the lunchroom saw a knife from nowhere, the knife many students saw every week, pierce Mindy’s vulnerable body. They saw Mindy evaporate in a mist of blood-
-And Mindy found herself behind decomposing ribs with the other stolen souls. She knew it was a knife that finally ripper her from her body, but she felt no pain from the stab, she felt nothing but shame. She wondered which of the other souls around her fell for the figure’s mind games, and which ones resisted until the end.
At least you went easily, said a voice from somewhere around Mindy. From the darkness around her, a fellow Selected student showed itself. You wouldn’t want to resist-it’s not worth it at all…
Mindy couldn’t nod, as she didn’t have a head anymore, but she telepathically agreed. Those you see fighting against the figure, they never gave in. They are doomed to fight until freed, and who knows how many forevers that will take… Mindy turned her attention to a group of dimly burning spirits huddled at the base of the spine. That’s where we will go-the thinkers. We died easily, we knew there was no hope. We just ponder this, wonder who’ll be next, consider endless situations of “what if”…just think.
Mindy retreated to this dark corner of the even darker creature. This was her home now, and these thinkers around her, they were her friends…for eternity…
The teachers in the lunchroom, almost all of the faculty, watched the mist of Mindy’s blood fade away. “Another Friday come and gone. Another student…gone,” Mindy’s teacher purred with satisfaction.
A new teacher, horrified by the previous experience, barely whispered, “I heard some schools were doing this, but I didn’t believe it. Is it really worth it?”
“Of course it is,” Mindy’s teacher snapped, her eyes glowing black, “They’ve behaved so well after we started this, ahem, ‘arrangement.’ One student a week keeps everyone happy. Weren’t your students ever so well behaved in your class?”
“I suppose,” said the new teacher warily after a few seconds, “but-”
“Then it’s worth it”, Mindy’s teacher stated curtly, eyes blacker than ever, with small glints of light visible in their midst. “It’s all worth it.”
Fridays were always quiet at Cellsworth High School.